Saturday, 6 May 2017

Masters Or Chiefs

(Mackenzie tartan.)

In SM Stirling's The Sunrise Lands, when a knight's servant refers to Rudi Mackenzie as Edain's master, Edain retorts that:

he is a Mackenzie;
Mackenzies don't have masters;
Rudi is his Chief.

Edain is correct. However, he should also understand that:

there are different social systems;
people will "translate" terminology from one system to another;
there are good and bad master-servant relationships.

It is possible for two men, or two beings, to maintain a formally correct master-servant relationship and also to be friends, prime examples in fiction being Poul Anderson's Dominic Flandry and Chives and DC Comics' Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I agree, it is possible for two men/beings " maintain a formally correct master-servant relationship and also to be friends." And I completely agree with the examples you chose. Edain Aylward was a bit too hypersensitive.


David Birr said...

Paul and Sean:
Not to mention that the word "master" doesn't always have to indicate a servant. I read some comic or other where a new character introduced himself to the heroine by saying he'd been her father's master. Naturally, this caused some conflict ... until it came out he meant "teacher."

In *Ivanhoe*, too, there are a few examples of people using the phrase "my masters" to address others they certainly didn't regard as their owners or employers. Without checking, I think Prince John himself might have said it at least once.

Considering the way Alfred snarked at Bruce Wayne from time to time, especially when he thought the boss was overworking himself, I'm not sure "formally correct" is an appropriate description.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, DAVID!

Thanks for your interesting comments!

I agree with your explanation of how the word "master" has been or can be used. And I might have added as well how, in the Gospels, Christ is often referred to addressed as "master." Again, with the meaning of "teacher."

As for the snark sometimes shown by Alfred to Bruce Wayne/Batman, that would be an example of how candid an old, utterly trusted retainer could be!


S.M. Stirling said...

"Master" was used in England as a synonym for "employer" well into the 19th century, btw. Labor law was "Master and Servant" law for a long time, also until (IIRC) the 1870's, when breach of an employment contract ceased to be a criminal offense.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

And of course we still have and use terms like "land LORD" or "head MASTER."